Monday 14 May 2012

Radiance 14 - Lamentations, Dirges and Woe

Whatever happened to Asher's father? Back in Chapter 1 Asher learnt that he was dead but never found out how. Read on to find out, in the final chapter of Netzach/Victory.

    Through strange eyes, Asher saw his father sitting in a hotel lobby, sipping at a glass of water and reading the New York Times.
    “Dad?” he tried to call, but no words emerged. This was only a memory, though not his own.
    His father took out a pen and began to fill in the crossword puzzle - that had always been a hobby of his, something Asher had never understood the appeal of. He had struck that familiar pose, chewing the end of his pen while he scanned the clues through his black-rimmed glasses. His father was just as he had been when Asher had last seen him - old, tired but alive.
    “Eliav, what are you doing here?”
    A warm familiar voice rang across the marble lobby. The eyes Asher was borrowing danced across leather sofas to the source - a dark-skinned woman in a red and gold dress, carrying a wooden sceptre at her side. Asher felt his eyebrow raise, though he wanted to inhale sharply - what was Virgo doing with Dad?
    “Virgo, I’m surprised it took you so long to find me.” His father did not remove the pen from his mouth, nor put down the paper.
    In a few long strides, marked by the tapping of the staff of Moses, Virgo was across the table from him.
    “I asked you what you were doing here?”
    “I heard you.”
    “I’m ignoring you.”
    “I demand an answer,” said Virgo looking frustrated.
    “If I wanted you to know why I was here, I would have told you where I was going. I didn’t.”
    “Eliav, you are being unreasonable, return with me to the palace, Rahko will listen beyond the curtain for news of your son, perhaps the prophecy was misunderstood.”
    “You aren’t listening to me,” Eliav said, completing a word, “I don’t want to speak to you.”
    Virgo perched on the edge of a nearby chair, leaning heavily on her staff. “You don’t need to do this.”
    “Do what, exactly?” Asher’s father put down the paper, gently returned the pen to his shirt pocket, adjusted his glasses and looked hard at Virgo with his grey eyes. “Leave me Virgo, I don’t want you to be here.”
    “You are being irrational,” Virgo began, “let’s talk about this, we can find a better solution.”
    “No, my mind is made up - this is why I haven’t returned to the palace, why I tried to hide my movements - I don’t want to drag you into this, don’t want to give you a chance to talk me out of it. This is what I have to do, my kiddush hashem.”
    Virgo leaned back in her chair, laying the staff across her knees.    “Do you remember that night in Vienna?” she said, “when we fought the demons across the Stefansplatz?”
    “That was a long time ago, Virgo,” Eliav sighed, “but I remember.”
    “And do you remember when I introduced you to Emma? The ball in Cambridge?”
    Eliav smiled sadly, half-closing his eyes. “Yes, of course.”
    “Then don’t do this, remember what I told you.”
    “You told me I was going to save the world but I can’t. Virgo, you’re all in your head - you need to let go.”
    “No, I won’t.”
    “You must, someone needs to check up on Asher.”
    Virgo said nothing for a few moments.    “You should have given him to me sooner,” she said, “he knows little and understands less, he will not open the door to me.”
    “I know,” Eliav said, shaking his head, “one of my many mistakes. Doubtless I shall soon be aware of them all. Goodbye Virgo, tell Asher… Well, tell him what he should be told, tell him when the time is right.”
    “Of course,” Virgo said, rising from her chair. “Goodbye Eliav.”
    She bent at the waist and kissed him lightly on the forehead, before spinning around and leaving the room. His father watched her leave, and remained staring at the sliding doors sometime after she had left. He carefully folded the paper and stood up.
    Asher found himself following, a floating awareness devoid of body - he was inside the dybbuk’s memories, he remembered. And the dybbuk was following his father down the corridor and into the bar.
    Eliav walked up the barman, a tall Hispanic man in a black suit, and ordered himself a diet coke.
    One moment Asher saw the barman pouring the drink, the next he felt the ice-cold of the bottle in his own hand, staring deep into his father’s eyes.
    “I know it’s you, so you can drop the pretence,” Eliav said. “But at least let me have the coke.”
    Asher pressed the drink into his father’s hand, watching as his hands blackened and extended into monstrous claws.
    Eliav began to chant in an undertone, words bubbling and tumbling from his mouth. It sounded like Aramaic.
    “You can’t study torah forever,” thundered a voice like fire. “Soon you must pause, or slip on a step, or marvel at a bird out the window. Then you will be ours.”
    A creature, roughly in the shape of a man but black and cracked like a volcano coalesced at the back of the bar. By his side were two women - on his right was a woman with blue-tinged skin and vicious teeth, while on his left her skin was a slightly green.
    “Ov told us you would be here, alone,” the green-skinned woman hissed, “though Lillith did not believe you would be so foolhardy.”
    “Naamah, you lie! It was you that expressed doubts.”
    “Silence, my wives” the flaming creature said, striding up behind Eliav, “let us not ruin this moment with argument. Today one of the Seven is about to die at our hands. All it will take is one, brief mistake.”
    Eliav stopped chanting. “I know,” he said sadly, “so let’s get this over with.” He closed his eyes.
    Asher felt his body smile, watched as his claws grew longer and sharper. Then he plunged them deep into his father’s chest, and squeezed.
    “Asher…” his father whispered.
    And he was gone.

    He opened his eyes, trying to remember who and where he was.
    The sky was dark but all around him were bright lights and the sound of traffic.
    “Thank God you’re awake,” said Virgo, “we should get out of here.”
    “The dybbuk…” Asher tried to say. His mouth was finding it difficult to form the words.
    “Gone, and so are we.”
    All around them the world shifted and dissolved as Virgo twisted the key in the lock.
    The last thing Asher felt before he slipped into oblivion, was a drop of blood trickling from the finger nail of his left hand.

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